Libertarian Party debate: Asymmetry and the Dallas Accord

Brian Holtz writes

Can someone please cite for me some actual substantive disagreement in this debate? I see the usual dueling abstract characterizations of the LP’s optimal strategy and messaging, but I can’t figure out their cash value. The only thing concrete that I’ve noticed from Starchild is some language from the 1972 Platform — language that M likes and that I like and that I’ll bet was removed by anarchists in 1974 because it said “government intervention […] is properly limited to protection of individual rights”. On the other hand, I disagree with M’s idea that all taxation (even taxes on aggression) should be voluntary — but I wouldn’t have the LP officially disagree with candidates who agree with M, and I doubt M would have the LP officially disagree with me on this point.

That, I think, is the essential difference between big-tent reformers and so-called “radicals”. Radicals want the LP to officially disagree with all principled libertarians whose principles aren’t identical to theirs. Radicals claim it’s “offputting” to them if the LP doesn’t issue a 14,000-word agreement with the details of their anarchist agenda — while hypocritically dismissing the complaints of libertarians whose principles are actually contradicted by some of those details. In other words: anarchists get to complain if the LP doesn’t say nearly everything anarchists believe, but smallarchists have to shut up and smile if they disagree with anything the anarchists make the LP say. And heaven forbid the LP actually say anything the anarchists disagree with.

I don’t think any LP radical has ever even grasped this asymmetry, let alone tried to justify it. The closest they’ve ever come is just to claim that they’re right on every disagreement over libertarian principle, which of course is the fallacy known as begging the question.

I’m actually growing increasingly comfortable with the rhetorical position of LP radicals. Their argument is essentially that the anarchist minority should control the LP’s ideology because anarchists are the most principled kind of Libertarian. This is by its own premise an argument that is extremely unlikely to carry the day, so I guess I shouldn’t complain that the radicals can’t come up with a better argument. 🙂

Additional posts by Mr. Holtz here and here. More.libertarianintelligence.com is an archive of Brian’s comments and is thus not itself open for comment, but you can comment on any of these posts here.

Tom Knapp replies.

That particular alleged asymmetry exists entirely in Holtz’s fevered imagination.

There is, however, an asymmetry built into the Dallas Accord.

The anarchist end of the Dallas Accord is that the Libertarian Party’s official dogma isn’t to be used to demand that the state must, or should, be abolished.

The minarchist end of the Dallas Accord is that the LP’s official dogma isn’t to be used to demand that the state must not, or should not, be abolished.

This does leave anarchists with a somewhat more free doctrinal hand than minarchists:

Anarchists can seek to put the LP on record in favor of the abolition of any particular state function or program without violating the Accord, because the abolition of this or that government function or program (or even any particular set of such functions or programs) does not necessarily imply abolition of the state itself.

Minarchists, however, fall afoul of the Accord if at any point they seek to put the LP on record in favor of retention or expansion of any existing state function or program, or the introduction of any new state function or program, because such retentions, expansions or introductions do necessarily imply retention of the state itself.

I don’t see that this asymmetry is necessarily a bad thing. Anyone care to argue that it is, and why?

There is an active thread on the issue at Kn@ppster, with 31 comments as of this writing.

Tom Knapp and Brian Holtz are both IPR writers, and both have run several times as Libertarian Party candidates and serve(d) on their state party committees.

154 thoughts on “Libertarian Party debate: Asymmetry and the Dallas Accord

  1. paulie Post author

    I think there is another kind of asymmetry at work as well: the nature of monopoly government is such that when one advocates preserving or expanding one government program and eliminating nine others, it is the one proposal for more government that actually passes.

    Thus, I think the LP should always spend all of its time and energy working to make government smaller on all issues.

    There are already plenty of other people arguing for preserving and expanding government on every conceivable issue. Why aid them?

    If you are an LP spokesman or candidate and disagree with making government smaller on any given issue, try to talk about that issue as little as possible.

  2. Gary Fincher

    I can’t find the perfect thread of which to post this comment, but…

    I just had lunch with Pima County (AZ) Treasurer David Euchner, and he’s on board with me, on my side now.

    I’ll be the sole Libertarian Party voter reg circulator in Pima County now.

    Hopefully, Sean Haugh will be getting a ride to Massachusetts soon.

  3. Jessica Irons

    I see the loser crew is back.

    Gary – the woman beating slob who forged voter registrations in New Mexico

    Paul – the convicted felon, rapist, child molester and crackhead who forged signatures in Oregon

    Andy – the original inspiration for the character in the 40 year old virgin. He hasn’t been caught forging yet, but since he hangs around with Gary and Paul there is a pretty high probability that he is a forger just like his loser friends. He always acts crazy and has to be removed by police because he petitions at grocery stores without permission and yells at people.

    Andy is currently stalking a young woman in Tennessee. He recently had to be fired from the voter registration drive in Arizona for deranged behavior and low quality work.

    All three have been fired in North Carolina and then again nationally by Sean Haugh, who is by far the best political director the Libertarian Party has ever had.

    Paul is now on the executive committee of the Alabama LP even though he is actually a homeless bum who hitchhikes all over the country and posts lies and slanders here against Sean Haugh, Christina Tobin, Angela Keaton, Richard Winger, Michelle Shinghal, Scott Kohlhaas and ElfNinosMom – all due to petty jealousy against his betters. Incidentally he is also a plagiarist.

    Roger Pope and Joe Knight have the straight scoop on these guys. They should be blackballed from petition drives, kicked off this website like they were at Last Free Voice, and ostracized at party meetings.

    All petition contracts should go to Free and Equal and competent petitioners like Eric Dondero, David Jackson, Ronn Cook, Edee and Russ Baggett and Darryl Bonner.

    The GAP boys are now turning on each other here over money. Don’t trust them, and don’t hire Mark Pickens who is just a front for them.

  4. Robert Capozzi

    tk: I don’t see that this asymmetry is necessarily a bad thing. Anyone care to argue that it is, and why?

    me: Yes, it is insane for a political party to disown the idea of (or even remain silent about) national defense or a justice system. While a highly theoretical case MIGHT be made for these baseline peacekeeping functions to offered by insurance companies, making that case in the public square sounds like the rantings of the tin-foil-hat crowd to most voters/citizens. (To be clear, I respect the theory of insurance companies as peacekeepers as a speculative, academic exercise. It’s self-evident, however, that the idea is not ready for application….not even close!)

    I, btw, reject the alleged “Dallas accord.” There may well have been some sort of agreement made in 1974. I reject capitalizing “accord.” I’ve yet to see ANY evidence that any such accord is binding for LP members in 2009.

    I’d suggest either getting over it or changing the ByLaws to incorporate any such “accord.”

  5. paulie Post author

    Robert,

    1. I don’t care if it is capitalized or not

    2. Why argue one way or the other about “these baseline peacekeeping functions to offered by insurance companies” when we have troops around the world to bring home, a military-industrial complex bigger than the rest of the world combined to dismantle, more prisoners than any other country, a drug war and “war on terror” that is destroying our civil liberties, international reputation, and large portions of our cities, and militarized police engaging in over 100,000 SWAT assaults a year and climbing…etc?

  6. Robert Capozzi

    pc, you may not care whether there is an “accord” or not, and nor do I. TK claims there IS one, yet he’s never to my knowledge shown that it’s binding here and now.

    It’s one thing to advocate EXCESSIVE military and domestic peacekeeping functions provided by government, another to suggest that ALL such functions should be eliminated, that’s why. Further, to suggest no language that suggests that some of those functions are valuable for the foreseeable future is to make the LP irrelevant, IMO. Without relevance, we are doomed to the inconsequential fringes.

    I’d say that’s contra-indicated positioning.

  7. Gary Chartier

    RC@5: “I’ve yet to see ANY evidence that any such accord is binding for LP members in 2009.”

    OK, fair enough: the Libertarian Gestapo won’t come knocking on your door at 3AM if you opt to ignore it. But, accord or no accord, it doesn’t seem to me that the state couldn’t–can’t–create or maintain a monopoly in any area without using force. If you’ll give me that, at least arguendo, then isn’t it relevant that LP members in 2009 do pledge not to support the use of force?

    I don’t for a moment think that means that a candidate is only authentically Libertarian if she runs on an explicitly anarchist platform. She’s free to ignore anarchism entirely, as far as I’m concerned. It just seems to me that there’s good reason for her to avoid explicitly supporting the non-defensive use of force. Would that really be so hard?

  8. paulie Post author

    pc, you may not care whether there is an “accord” or not, and nor do I. TK claims there IS one, yet he’s never to my knowledge shown that it’s binding here and now.

    If I understand correctly, Tom is in favor of scrapping any tacit understanding by anarchists in the LP that they will not mention being anarchists in the role of party candidates or spokespeople.

    It’s one thing to advocate EXCESSIVE military and domestic peacekeeping functions provided by government, another to suggest that ALL such functions should be eliminated

    Hardly seems like the thing to focus on while they are in fact excessive and growing dangerously.

    It seems to me that ten years ago, libertarians spent a lot less time on such highly theoretical issues far removed from real world politics – the anarchy vs. minarchy bate which is over the heads of most non-libertarians and has little relevance to the real world we live in – and the party was getting more accomplished.

  9. Melty

    I aint a anarchist but I think it reasonable to rule out official wordings that have it the government is needful for something. Better to hold to the adage, “less said, more read” anyhow.

  10. Thomas M. Sipos

    Radicals claim it’s “offputting” to them if the LP doesn’t issue a 14,000-word agreement with the details of their anarchist agenda

    Holtz erroneously equates radicals with anarchists.

    I’m considered a radical, yet I’m also a minarchist.

    OTOH, some LP members support wars and empire. You can’t be a minarchist and support wars and empire. That’s more of a “big government libertarian.”

  11. Gary Chartier

    How many reformers would be comfortable with a plank that–while it said nothing about the merits of government-in-general, and while it did not condemn the use of military force–explicitly rejected (along with the Founders) the maintenance of a standing army? Could we at least agree on that much?

  12. Michael H. Wilson

    It would be nice to get some effort put into just bring the troops home. Right now we aren’t doing much on that front at all.

    One small step for freedom.

    MW

  13. Donald R Lake

    Mike Wilson: allow me to introduce you to Obama, my Yokohama Momma, he is a change agent whom is soooooooooo George W. Bush II! [Gates, bail outs, over seas troops in areas where the locals do not want them!]

    Vote for for the opposition [LBJ over Goldwater, Nixon over McGovern, Reagan over Carter] and get exactly what they were preaching against!

  14. Donald R Lake

    paulie: concise, clear, and to the point. nice work!

    Gary: THERE YOU GO AGAIN. Hey fucker, this is not Libertarian Party Watch, damnit!

    You meant to say, ‘Libertarian reformers’, right, sneaky put down artiste ????? Could you start saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. Oh, that might take an attitude readustment!

    Want me to sit down and shut up ????? Be more honest, don’t bring religion into a secular political site, and don’t document fiction.

    The fight against dumbo, tab, and the Duopoly Establishment is tough enuf with out ‘fellow travelers’ like your self.

    Go back to your DNC/ RNC confab and leave the independent patriots alone to struggle on with out your sabotage!

  15. Mik Robertson

    I must say I don’t like the ads at Kn@ppster.

    I think one of the problems is the interpretation of this:

    “The minarchist end of the Dallas Accord is that the LP’s official dogma isn’t to be used to demand that the state must not, or should not, be abolished.”

    Putting forth a public policy position that allows for a role of government does not in any way violate that provision, yet some claim that it does and they are offended.

    We will not get from where we are today to anarchy or even minarchy without first stopping the growth of government authority. It will be a long process involving substantial effort if we want to use the evolutionary means of the political process. If we want to use revolutionary means, for one thing I don’t think that takes a political party, and for another that is when things can get out of hand and a lot of people can get hurt.

    I can’t get from where I live to Los Angeles without going someplace else first. It doesn’t do any good to say that I can go to Los Angeles instantly and I’m offended if someone says I can’t.

    This doesn’t mean that individual liberty cannot be maximized in a condition of anarchy, perhaps it can. It doesn’t make sense for the LP to make policy positions based on the absence of government, however. In just about every case that position will be a non-starter and will have absolutely no impact on the public policy debate.

    Until the size and scope of government is greatly reduced, it will not make sense to have a debate over whether government should exist at all. That is why the asymmetry is a bad thing.

  16. Thomas L. Knapp

    Mik,

    There are a LOT of things that can be done to reduce the size, scope and power of government without having to debate over whether or not the institution of government itself should be retained or discarded.

    The purpose of the Dallas Accord was to create a framework within which minarchists and anarchists could work together on the former instead of fighting over the latter.

    “Putting forth a public policy position that allows for a role of government does not in any way violate that provision, yet some claim that it does and they are offended.”

    Bullshit. That’s neither the type of proposal, nor the claim, at issue.

    If minarchists want to propose incremental measures to reduce the size, power and scope of the state, without mentioning an abolitionist end goal, no problem — that’s something that many anarchists, myself included, do too.

    It’s when minarchists or anarchists respectively insist that a perpetual role for government or the abolition of goverment must be enshrined as official party dogma that they fall afoul of the Accord.

    If you care to argue that the Accord was or is a bad idea, fine — but argue the facts, not some fanciful fairy tale about how the failure of the LP is the fault of those anarchists for demanding Libertopia next week. The bulk of Libertarian campaigns has always been programmatically minarchist rather than anarchist, even when the candidates themselves were the latter.

  17. Mik Robertson

    @22 “Bullshit. That’s neither the type of proposal, nor the claim, at issue.”

    It is exactly what is at issue. Public policy is what the LP works on. There is EVERYTHING that the LP does that can be done without the debate over whether or not government should be discarded, at least for the past thirty eight years and the foreseeable future.

    “It’s when minarchists or anarchists respectively insist that a perpetual role for government or the abolition of goverment must be enshrined as official party dogma that they fall afoul of the Accord.”

    Stating that there is a role for government, for example stating the role is to secure individual rights, is not the same as saying government must always be there to secure rights or that it is the only mechanism to secure those rights. Defining a principle on which to limit government is not the same as saying government must always be present.

    The only way to make it so statements like these are construed as meaning a perpetual role for government is if you see libertarianism as an end, not a process. Without being able to make statement like that, there is no way to define how to limit government.

    “If you care to argue that the Accord was or is a bad idea, fine — but argue the facts, not some fanciful fairy tale about how the failure of the LP is the fault of those anarchists for demanding Libertopia next week.”

    Whether the accord is or was a good or bad idea is inconsequential. The accord is unnecessary. I did not say the failure of the LP is the result of anarchists demanding Libertopia next week, nor did I even say that the LP was a failure (talk about fanciful fairy tales!).

    What we need are public policy positions we can work on with others. How many legislatures have been swayed by the argument that they should not exist?

    Maybe one day we will get to that point, but we are not there yet. It is then we can consider the need for the continued existence of government.

  18. Brian Holtz

    Bob, nobody is saying the Dallas Accord is “binding” in the sense of a Bylaw. An accord can be useful without being technically binding.

    Paulie, I don’t agree with Tom Knapp if he claims that the DA prevented anarchists from campaigning as such. The only support I’ve ever heard for that interpretation is from Less Antman, but I don’t see how it could possibly follow from the core terms that everybody agrees constituted the accord. This sounds to me like confusion between what the LP may say and what candidates may say.

    You ask why a smallarchist should defend the legitimacy of minimal government when there is so much maximal government to dismantle. In American politics, it seems to me the case for shrinking government is self-marginalized when it is made dependent on the premise that all government is illegitimate. If I thought that advocating anarchism was some kind of Jedi mind trick that could shrink government, I’d be out campaigning for anarchism and telling voters these are not the droids they’re looking for. However, for thirty years the LP offered a detailed recipe for implementing anarchism. Take a look at the size of the nanny state and tell us: how well did that work out?

    Thomas Sipos, if you as a “minarchist” support a platform calling for personal secession and immediate non-enforcement of all tax laws, then you’re nevertheless an anarchist — just a confused one. You’re also confused in thinking that any Libertarian supports “empire”.

    empire n. a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority

    Gary, feel free to introduce a resolution against a “standing army” at any state or national LP convention, and report back to us the results.

    My thesis remains as follows: the Dallas Accord when combined with a 2000-word platform (like 1972 or now) is a fair compromise for anarchists and smallarchists alike; however, when the DA is combined with a 14,000-word recipe for abolishing every aspect of government, it’s a bad deal for the smallarchists — a deal that no LP radical tries to defend.

    Restore04-style radicals want the Platform to clearly imply that one side of the anarchy/smallarchy debate is wrong. They should be careful what they wish for.

  19. Thomas M. Sipos

    Brian Holtz: Thomas Sipos, if you as a “minarchist” support a platform calling for personal secession and immediate non-enforcement of all tax laws, then you’re nevertheless an anarchist — just a confused one.

    And if you eat hamburgers, you’re no vegan. But I don’t recall you ever discussing your dietary habits, so why bring it up?

    Likewise, I don’t recall ever stating an opinion on personal secession or immediate non-enforcement of tax laws, one way or another. Nor do I feel like discussing those topics now.

  20. Robert Capozzi

    gc, I believe most who signed the pledge did not do so in a NAP sense, but rather in a non-violent political change sense. I seem to recall that Co-Founder Nolan has confirmed that was the intend when the pledge was initiated back in the day.

    As for whether it’s “hard” for an LP candidate “to avoid explicitly supporting the non-defensive use of force,” I’d respond, Yes, it would be hard. Rather than dancing around, an L candidate can (and should, IMO) stand for a strong national defense and justice system. L candidates I’d support would make the case for shrinking both down to the bare essentials, but to do the essentials well, efficiently, and fairly. And, if we ever get to the bare essentials state, we can have another conversation about the viability of insurance-company provided baseline peacekeeping mechanisms.

  21. Gary Chartier

    RC@26: I’m intrigued. Does saying that most original signers of the LP pledge understood it in “a non-violent political change sense” mean that they were simply pledging that their identification with a freedom movement didn’t mean that they were plotting the non-violent overthrow of the government? Is that your reading, as an historical matter?

  22. tab

    How many reformers would be comfortable with a plank that–while it said nothing about the merits of government-in-general, and while it did not condemn the use of military force–explicitly rejected (along with the Founders) the maintenance of a standing army? Could we at least agree on that much?

    I wouldn’t agree with that because it is not realistic, nor is it desirable in today’s world (or even in the 18th century world). Like someone else mentioned, just end almost all overseas bases and stop the empire building. That will be a great start.

    While many of the Founding Fathers (especially Madison) recognized the threat a standing military could pose, they did not specifically outlaw it in the Constitution. They created certain protections like Article 1 Section 8, but the Constitution allowed for such a force to exist. Every President in history has maintained some type of standing army. Shortly after the Continental Army was disbanded, Washington saw the need for such a force to protect against attacks from the Indians.

  23. Gary Chartier

    Tab@30: agreed–that would be a great start. But as long as a government has access to a standing army, that army is available to be used in foreign wars and against domestic dissidents. The need to call up an army imposes real discipline on a government that actually has to convince people of the merit of using force, and makes this kind of mischief much less likely.

  24. Steven R Linnabary

    Gary @ 28:

    At the time, it was widely believed (though not yet proven) that various government agencies were infiltrating the peace, civil rights and other political groups.

    The LP founders wanted to be able to prove their anti-violence with an oath to be required from future members.

    OTOH, the LP WAS founded to take advantage of electoral politics. This of course makes it theoretically conceivable to overthrow the current regime. Non violently, of course.

    PEACE

  25. Robert Capozzi

    gc 28, yes. The Nolan has apparently confirmed that it was about non-violent political change, NOT signing LPers up to the NAP and its anarcho interpretation.

    The founders of the LP didn’t want to be perceived as violent revolutionaries. I’d suggest that that’s also not indicated for the LP now. In my judgment, Ls would badly lose any revolution. And, while I certainly believe a major change in direction is needed, a revolution is contra-indicated on many, many levels.

  26. Brian Holtz

    Tom Sipos is hilarious. He was a signatory of the Restore04 petition asking to restore the 2004 platform, including its crypto-anarchist language advocating personal secession and immediate non-enforcement of all tax laws. In a discussion about the LP platform, he gets all evasive about his own position on the platform, and bristles: “why bring it up?” But of course, he doesn’t recognize it as a textbook red herring for him to introduce into this anarchism/minarchism/platform debate his favorite bogeyman: nameless libertarians who allegedly “support wars and empire”. Nor does he dare try to put any substance behind his drive-by mudslinging.

    Thanks for the comical interlude, Tom. Now, Gary, on the serious question of the LP Pledge, see http://libertarianmajority.net/does-the-pledge-mandate-zero-aggression-absolutism

  27. libertariangirl

    Theres one question Ive always had Brian , perhaps you can answer it .
    How did the platform get gutted but the phrase ‘cult of the omnipotent state’, which I despise , got left in?

    just wondering

  28. Thomas L. Knapp

    LG,

    It takes a 7/8ths vote to alter the Statement of Principles, which is where the phrase “cult of the omnipotent state” appears. It only takes 50%+1 to delete a regular plank on the retention vote, or 2/3 to create or modify a regular plank.

  29. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    Yes, Nolan has “confirmed” that the pledge means something than what it obviously means in light of both strict construction and historical context.

    That confirmation is, in a word, bullshit.

  30. Donald R Lake

    [a] by ‘reformers’ you REALLY meant ‘Libertarian Reformers’ …….. Thanks for being a total butt head!

    [b] remember, tad is a self identified ‘conservative GOP’ giving technical advice to alternative non Dem and non Republican activists ………. Thanks for being a total ………..

  31. tab

    remember, tad is a self identified ‘conservative GOP’ giving technical advice to alternative non Dem and non Republican activists ………. Thanks for being a total ………..

    Donald,

    Again, when you use a term like “self-identified” you imply that I have used that term to describe myself. Not once have I ever identified myself as a GOP conservative.

    Also, how does understanding the Constitution make one a “conservative GOP.”

    Now you may continue your regular, and somewhat strange, obsession with everything I pos.

  32. Gene Berkman

    When The Libertarian Party was founded in 1972, everyone accepted the Non-Aggression Principle as the essential element of libertarian philosophy.

    The principle of the Non-Initiation of Force was promoted by Ayn Rand as the fundamental political principle of capitalism. It was likewise at the center of Rothbard’s version of libertarianism.

    The Pledge was written for the purpose of keeping people who advocate the initiation of force from joining the Libertarian Party and leading it away from commonly accepted Libertarian principles.

    It has also been defended as a way to defend the Party if someone claiming association with libertarians were to engage in violent revolutionary activities. But that too is consistence with the Non-Aggression Principle.

    I was at Denver in 1972, and previously had been involved in the YAF Libertarian Caucus and the California Libertarian Alliance, so I can claim knowledge of what was going on when the Pledge was adopted.

  33. Brian Holtz

    Tom’s “bullshit” essay doesn’t address a single one of these six threads of evidence:

    1) The LP Pledge includes a curious qualification (about “social and political goals”) that appears nowhere in the prior art by Rand, Rothbard, etc. on what they would say is an absolute and categorical ethical principle.

    2) The LP Pledge was adopted while the explicitly-minarchist 1972 Platform was in force, and that Platform talked about “legitimate governments” whose “sole function is the protection of the rights of each individual”. Whatever the Pledge means, it can’t rule out the sort of minarchism envisioned by the 1972 Platform.

    3) The 1976 LPOK Pledge tries to expand or clarify the scope of the allegedly unambiguous and absolute classic NAP language by adding “economic” as another sort of goal.

    4) Old-timers in the LP consistently recall concerns about government surveillance and COINTELPRO.

    5) Of all the LP old-timers who have weighed in on this question, all but one confirm Nolan’s report of the rationale behind the Pledge — i.e. as a pledge against violent revolution. (Gene, the NAP clearly does not rule out violent defensive revolution against tyrannical states.)

    6) Nolan’s explanation is an admission against interest — he’s a radical who always argues for more ideological purity in the LP.

    LP Bylaw 5.1 makes the Pledge a condition of membership. If Tom or anybody else thinks that I disqualify myself from LP membership by not being a NAPsolutist, I invite them to challenge my delegate credentials in St. Louis in 2010.

  34. Michael H. Wilson

    Prior tp Radn and Rothbard I am sure that many others talked and wrote about non-aggression as an idea that need to be developed throughout society. I seem to recall similar wording elsewhere. One site oon the computer quotes Thomas Edison as having said; “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

    Whether, or not it is the LP’s goal is something that we can argue for years. All in fun I hope.

    MW

  35. Michael H. Wilson

    Tom quotes Rothbard as saying; “‘Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. — from For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (1973), by Murray N. Rothbard”

    Murray wants to restrict my right to threaten others.

    Isn’t that a violation of my freedom of speech?

    MW

  36. Michael H. Wilson

    Rand may have preached the value of contracts, but she apparently wasn’t required to keep them. After all she cheated on her husband Frank O’Connor, or so I have read.

  37. Gene Berkman

    Brian @ 34:

    I have been an active libertarian for over 40 years, I have been around many very radical libertarians, and seriously, I cannot remember anyone ever claiming to be concerned about Cointelpro or CIA infiltration of the Libertarian Movement. I suppose there were some paranoid libertarians that thought it was an issue.

    The infiltration we mostly worried about was conservatives who had not accepted the implications or the non-aggression principle. The issue of the Pledge providing deniability if someone planning violent action claimed to be one of us was after Waco, in 1995 – 23 years after the Pledge was adopted.

    The government agencies we most worried about were the IRS and the DEA. We of course denounced the CIA etc on principle, and to recruit new leftists.

    Yes, the Pledge was adopted when the minarchist platform of 1972 was adopted. But at the time, the real purpose of the Pledge was to convince more radical libertarians that they could trust the LP, which was seen as conservative by many.

  38. Gene Trosper

    @44 She would have only broken the “marriage contract” if it was mutually understood and accepted there would be no extra-marital sexual activities. Not everyone takes the same marriage oath. I’m not privy to Ayn Rand’s personal life with regard to that (rumors aside), but I do know married couples which extra marital activities would NOT break any sort of contract.

  39. Thomas M. Sipos

    “Libervention” is support for wars and empire.

    Libervention is not libertarian.

    “Libervention” is a sanitized word that hides its true meaning: killing innocent foreign civilians, and placing them under U.S. government control. (Look at the military bases we’re building in Iraq — we’re not leaving anytime soon.)

    Warmongers like sanitized terms, e.g. pacification.

    And just because I supported the restoration of the 2004 platform doesn’t mean I support every plank in it. I regard it the better compromise of decades of LP delegates’ thinking.

    Better a moderate tinkering with any perceived problems, plank by plank, than the “reformers'” extremist approach.

  40. Donald R Lake

    What does the Reform Party USA have to with Libervention and libertarian extremist approaches ??? Oh, LIBERTARIAN reformers: why don’t you say what you mean and mean what you say ……….

  41. Thomas L. Knapp

    Quoth Brian Holtz:

    “Tom’s ‘bullshit’ essay doesn’t address a single one of these six threads of evidence.”

    The “threads of evidence” you cite aren’t “evidence,” but I’ll be happy to address them.

    “1) The LP Pledge includes a curious qualification (about ‘social and political goals’) that appears nowhere in the prior art by Rand, Rothbard, etc. on what they would say is an absolute and categorical ethical principle.”

    I’m not sure what you think is “curious” about a social/political organization specifying that its pledge relates to political or social matters. My best guess, however, is that that phraseology ended up in there for the same reason that the LP’s platform ended up being 14,000 words long — Libertarians can’t resist using ten words when one will do perfectly well.

    Rand most manifestly did NOT regard non-aggression as an “absolute and categorical ethical principle.” In fact, she criticized libertarians for treating it as such.

    “2) The LP Pledge was adopted while the explicitly-minarchist 1972 Platform was in force, and that Platform talked about ‘legitimate governments’ whose ‘sole function is the protection of the rights of each individual.’ Whatever the Pledge means, it can’t rule out the sort of minarchism envisioned by the 1972 Platform.”

    The post you allude to specifically addresses the fact that at least one school of minarchism (the Randian school) encompasses the non-aggression principle. It does so by ignoring its own contradictions, but it does so nonetheless.

    I’m surprised that you think the 1972 LP, unlike all subsequent iterations, could not possibly have been blind to contradictions in its doctrines or dogmas.

    “3) The 1976 LPOK Pledge tries to expand or clarify the scope of the allegedly unambiguous and absolute classic NAP language by adding ‘economic’ as another sort of goal.”

    And your point is?

    “4) Old-timers in the LP consistently recall concerns about government surveillance and COINTELPRO.”

    That may be the case. The fact that that may be the case does not erase the prehistory of the LP or the meanings of phrases emerging from that prehistory.

    “5) Of all the LP old-timers who have weighed in on this question, all but one confirm Nolan’s report of the rationale behind the Pledge — i.e. as a pledge against violent revolution. (Gene, the NAP clearly does not rule out violent defensive revolution against tyrannical states.)”

    I don’t claim to be privy to the thoughts or comments of every LP old-timer, so I have no way of knowing whether or not that claim is true.

    “6) Nolan’s explanation is an admission against interest — he’s a radical who always argues for more ideological purity in the LP.”

    That argument is, in my opinion, correct. Which makes me wonder when, and why, he decided to revise history in an attempt to make the pledge mean something other than what it obviously means. My best guess is that it was a revision of convenience during some faction fight which he’s since felt it necessary to stick to.

    LP Bylaw 5.1 makes the Pledge a condition of membership. If Tom or anybody else thinks that I disqualify myself from LP membership by not being a NAPsolutist, I invite them to challenge my delegate credentials in St. Louis in 2010.

  42. Susan Hogarth

    @44

    1) I’m not sure I see what point you’re trying to make.

    2) However, on this note, there is an interesting discussion/paper around somewhere on the nature of contract which differentiates between a ‘true contract’ (an exchange of property titles) and a ‘promissory contract’ (a promise). To break a promise (eternal love, fidelity, showing up on time for a meeting) might be bad/immoral/stupid, but does not involve the same forfeit of property as does a contract.

  43. Thomas L. Knapp

    Oops … I forgot to address one of Brian’s points and just left it hanging there:

    “LP Bylaw 5.1 makes the Pledge a condition of membership. If Tom or anybody else thinks that I disqualify myself from LP membership by not being a NAPsolutist, I invite them to challenge my delegate credentials in St. Louis in 2010.”

    First of all, read the bylaws. You don’t have to be a member of the national LP to be a delegate to the national convention. You just have be a member of the state affiliate you’re representing.

    Secondly, not all affiliates require the pledge.

    Since the pledge is not a requirement for being a delegate, I don’t see how a charge that you haven’t signed it, or don’t understand what you signed, or signed it with false intent, would in any way impeach your credentials.

  44. Robert Capozzi

    tk, even if one believed in the NAP as a single, guiding principle (I sort of do), one could make the judgment (as I do) that one can advocate for incremental change and endorse, for the time being, certain state functions (baseline peacekeeping functions, as I do). In the context of politics and making near-to-intermediate-term change, I believe it’s both principled and practical to say, for ex., Ls support a strong national defense.

    (I’d say this is even true for Rothbardians, Hoppeans, David Friedmanites and L. Neil Smithians, who recognize the value of “defense,” but who have novel theories about how non-States can provide a strong “national” defense.)

    Quite simply, I find the opposite to risky. No national defense would likely lead to an INCREASE in the net incidence of coercion, not a decrease.

    A single principle does not mean that an advocate NOT take into consideration practicalities. I suspect that Randians would make that argument. I — a lessarchist — certainly do.

    Philosophers, as opposed to politicians, can make the case for insurance companies or Acme to maintain the peace. That’s because politicians are engaged in the art of the practical. Politicians are INFORMED and INSPIRED BY philosophers, but they APPLY philosophical insights to the here and now.

    So, one can be both a NAP adherent AND an ADVOCATE for the more serviceable “maximize liberty, minimize coercion” rule.

    Similarly, one can be both a NAP adherent AND a constitutionalist, advocating government be constrained by a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

    Agreed?

    If so, could this line of thinking be the basis for a St. Louis Accord?

  45. Robert Capozzi

    btw, I’d suggest that if we’re to have a St. Louis Accord, it should be an actual resolution, voted on in convention. Tidier, I’d say.

    We might want to tackle the other major bone of contention: the “mission” of the LP.

  46. paulie Post author

    You ask why a smallarchist should defend the legitimacy of minimal government when there is so much maximal government to dismantle. In American politics, it seems to me the case for shrinking government is self-marginalized when it is made dependent on the premise that all government is illegitimate.

    There’s no reason to campaign on any such premise necessarily. Just focus on cutting government as much as possible, and deflect any questions about the ultimate end point with a “dunno” shrug, as Harry Browne did.


    If I thought that advocating anarchism was some kind of Jedi mind trick that could shrink government, I’d be out campaigning for anarchism and telling voters these are not the droids they’re looking for. However, for thirty years the LP offered a detailed recipe for implementing anarchism. Take a look at the size of the nanny state and tell us: how well did that work out?

    You are presuming that it could have been better if the LP had been more moderate? I don’t think that’s a proven statement.

    See http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/optimistic.html

    (please do not dismiss it due to who wrote it or any kind of disagreement over details).

  47. paulie Post author

    I’ll quote some of the best parts for those who don’t go to links, with apologies in advance for the long quote



    First, our side has enough energy and enthusiasm to match and exceed anything coming from the partisans of stagnation and state power. The application of this energy in the area of political and intellectual activism has a cumulative effect over time. As you know, in the workplace, the employee who is just slightly more productive than the average can end up as a champion in a year or two. It is the same in the intellectual arena.

    Our scholars are turning out books and articles and lectures packed with new ideas and new applications of old ideas, which are being distributed to ever wider audiences. Also, our movement is disproportionately young, and with youth comes idealism and the willingness to take necessary risks. These young people distrust official institutions and are willing to look at radical new ideas. Once they do, they are drawn into our ideological orbit and become part of a burgeoning army of dissident thinkers and activists.

    If you look at the demographics of the partisans of the state, they are much older, educated in times when the Keynesian consensus dominated economics, when all news was network news, and the militarism and government worship of the Cold War period was the reigning theme of public life. These days, the theme of public life is far fuzzier. The government claims it needs to take away your liberty to protect you from enemies it constantly stirs up with its wars abroad. That line isn’t selling as well as the government had hoped.

    Second, there are more of us than we thought. Long ago, we had become accustomed to thinking of ourselves as a tiny remnant of true believers, glad to write for anyone willing to read, but seriously hindered in our ability to get the message out. After 1996, all that changed with the web, when suddenly we found ourselves in a position to get our message out not only to the thousands we knew were interested but also to the millions we did not know anything about. Today, the Mises Institute is easily the most heavily trafficked think-tank site on the web, and LewRockwell.com is among the largest commentary sites of any sort.

    This isn’t owing to the talents behind the sites. It is due to the ideas they profess. And they are hardly the only examples. The libertarian idea is hugely prominent, not in the official press but in the unofficial world of web journalism, including the millions and millions of bloggers drawn to our work. Applications for the Mises University this year outpaced any previous year, and our books sell so well that we find we are better off publishing many of them ourselves rather than relying on the dated distribution channels of the mainstream presses.

    The bottom line is that the new media have allowed us to discover our fondest dream: our ideas are extremely appealing to masses of people, and intellectual movement broadly speaking is much larger than we thought. Many more people are fed up with the oppression of the welfare-warfare-central banking state than we knew. Whereas the demand had previously been unexpressed and unchanneled, we are now in a position to meet the demand in ways we never thought possible.

    Third, we are making progress. A key question to ask of any body of ideas is whether it is living or dying. Looking at body of ideas of the Austro-libertarian tradition, and where they stand today as compared with 10 or 20 years ago, there can be no doubt as to our status. We are living and growing at compounded rates, and this is paying off in so many ways. Homeschooling is spreading, anger at the nation-state is swelling, and the love of liberty is growing. Mises and Rothbard are mentioned in news stories without explanation, as if readers should just know who they are. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

    Consider the case of academia. Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of Austrians teaching in economics departments around the world. Today there are hundreds, and they no longer have to hide their views. On the contrary, they are hired precisely for their Austrian connections. It is easy to see where this is headed. Not too many years from now, it will become the rule rather than the exception for every economics department at a vibrant institution to have at least one faculty member who embraces the Misesian tradition.

    In investment banking houses around the country, the economists have learned that the Austrian explanation of the 1990s boom and millennium bust is the most compelling. It is the one their clients understand. Economists at major institutions have been scouring the works of Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard if only to find some means of explaining world affairs. But of course it doesn’t stop there. If you see what loose credit brings about, you start looking at the need for monetary reform. Once that is understood, the merit of the gold standard is the next step, then abolishing the Fed, and the next thing you know, we’ve got a host of monetary radicals making waves at major investment houses around the world.

    This is intellectual guerilla warfare, and I’ll tell you why it works, and in doing so cover my fourth point: our opponents live on untruths. They say that social security is a good deal because it protects you in your old age, but everyone knows the truth: it loots you during your productive years and puts you on welfare in your later years. They say the war in Iraq was good for American security because Saddam was going to unleash weapons of mass destruction on Americans. They say that it is essential to regulate our businesses in the name of promoting safety and social justice. They say that the government must deliver essential services because the market cannot.

    On and on it goes, world without end, but it has never been easier to see through this nonsense.

    Of course, seeing error is not the same as seeing truth. But never forget the following, and this is my final and most compelling reason for optimism: The truth is on our side. Sometimes Austro-libertarians are accused of dogmatically adhering to a cult and ignoring contrary evidence. Let me tell you that when it comes to believing in liberty, there is no reason for ignoring evidence or otherwise attaching yourself uncritically to some ideology. Not a day goes by when the newspapers aren’t filled with evidence, properly interpreted.

    This isn’t to say that it is easy to understand economics or libertarian political theory. It is not as intuitive as at it may seem to those of us steeped in it for years. It takes struggle and patience to understand. But once you do, a whole world opens up to you. You begin to understand that the failure of government and the success of markets is not an accident or random but part of the very structure of reality. And once you understand that structure of reality, you can anticipate certain things with nearly perfect foresight. The news confirms the ideology, and the ideology explains the news. World events never let us forget that we have the truth on our side.

    Now to the final issue: dealing with despair and what you can do right now to assist in changing the world. The sense of despair that comes with being at a loss as to how to get from point A to point B. How do we make the reform from statism to liberty? How do we change the world? Above all, I counsel patience. A little work done each day adds up over time. Multiply that work by millions and we have a revolution on our hands.

    What should that work be? It depends on circumstances of time and place. We must first work to improve our own cultural circumstances, and this is something we can control. We must free ourselves from the party line and help others to do the same. We must be good examples. An outstanding entrepreneur like Burt Blumert is the living embodiment of the power of private enterprise. A great teacher like Thomas DiLorenzo who cares about his students is a living example of idealism in practice. A great father or mother, of which we have many here, is living proof that the family is not a den of pathology as the left claims. A wonderful statesman like Ron Paul is proof that not all politicians need to care about self-interest only.

    We can all do our part by reading more, telling the truth to others, and supporting organizations and publications and websites dedicated to liberty. How will this make a difference?

    With time and patience, we will find out. No revolution in history has gone precisely according to plan. The timing and nature of social change surprises its most brilliant intellectual architects. But know this: every time you learn something new about liberty; share a book, article or idea; contribute to a good cause; write a letter to the editor; or give another hero of liberty moral support, you are taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of despotism in our time. We don’t know when it will finally crack but we do know that it is intellectual work, above all, that will bring it down. In its place, we must plant a garden of liberty.

    All states everywhere enjoy power only because people are willing to grant it to them, which in turn means that power is ultimately based on that illusive notion called legitimacy. Legitimacy can vanish in an instant, exposed as a façade that covers up the massive looting machine that is government. But this is even more true in a system like our own, where it has been tested and tested, and failed and failed again.

    We can and must be confident of victory. Vladimir Ilych Lenin, holed up in exile and plotting the Bolshevik Revolution, never doubted that the Russian tsar could be overthrown. He saw his job as finding the weak spots – in this case it was the Russian involvement in the Great War that was killing off an entire generation in a pointless maelstrom. Had he sat around fretting about the risks and doubting the victory of his cause, it is likely that he never would have triumphed. The cause he was promoting, namely communism, was evil incarnate, and it resulted in incredible calamity. Given the truth of freedom, how much more passionate and sure-footed should we be?

    Power fears ideas. That’s why governments resort to censorship. That’s why they want to control education. That’s why they would like to jail every intellectual dissident. For now, they can’t get away with it. And that is why we must act – with patience but with determination. An old hymn offers us this famous couplet: “Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.” It was Murray Rothbard’s favorite hymn because of the lines that follow: “Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”

    Ultimately, this is the source of our hope and the strongest reason against despair. As we work for liberty, let us use moral courage and never shrink from saying and doing what is right. Our future is what acting individuals make of it. Let us go forward with confidence, tenacity, and, always, good cheer.

  48. Gary Chartier

    RC@52–without any illusions that I can or should answer for Tom: I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with incrementalism, and one certainly needn’t stand on the rooftops calling for the elimination of all state functions. Also, given the interrelationship of various state activities, I think there’s a good argument for the view that eliminating some policies or programs without eliminating others that are linked with them would actually make things worse.

    I’d add, though, that “a strong national defense” is not something I oppose because I want my philosophical system to be tidy and complete; it’s not something against which I argue because I want the chance to prove that the private provision of defense services can be economically efficient. I argue against it because I think it’s unbelievably costly and dangerous. I’ll take the cost as a given here; it’s dangerous because, as long as it’s available, it can be used to press imperial agendas overseas and suppress dissent at home. Of course, it would be less costly and dangerous without 800+ overseas bases. But the danger persists even with troops stationed at home. As long as there’s a state, it can propagandize with immense effectiveness to mobilize popular support for overseas adventures; and it can utilize the experience of military service to build loyalty for its imperial overreach (think “support the troops” propaganda).

    So, by all means, be dialectical and tactical. There may be anarchists who think everything is equally bad and needs to be attacked at once; I’m not one of them. But I do believe the existence of a standing army is trully dangerous to Americans and to the rest of the world, because what the state can and will do with it.

    It’s not clear to me that we disagree about general questions of tactics. I just wish we could agree on a different example.

  49. Robert Capozzi

    pc, one can be a lessarchist and not an anarcho “radical” and still be optimistic, using some or all of the rationales that Squire Rockwell cites. I am.

  50. Robert Capozzi

    gc, another example would be a criminal justice system. For the foreseeable future, I’m FOR a State providing such services. There may be a day when I wouldn’t, but I ain’t holding my breath. Like closing foreign bases, I’m for focusing State-provided justice on curtailing and deterring real crimes.

    While I’m at it, I’m for maintaining the safety net, although I want to transition those out of existence over time. I don’t advocate seniors eating cat food, a real risk if SS elimination were immediate, for ex.

  51. Gary Chartier

    RC@59: I think the point about the safety net is a good example of what others have labeled a dialectical approach to dismantling the state. The state creates and maintains poverty in all sorts of ways; it then provides partial remedies for problems it’s created (I believe it’s Tom Knapp who’s used the analogy of breaking your legs before offering you crutches). It would be perverse to eliminate sources of protection against the very poverty created by the state before the state’s own poverty-creating and -maintaining mechanisms were also eliminated.

  52. JT

    Tom: “Rand most manifestly did NOT regard non-aggression as an “absolute and categorical ethical principle.” In fact, she criticized libertarians for treating it as such.”

    Yes, she most manifestly did consider it an absolute moral principle. She was consistent within her context of a minarchist society (whether you agree with that or not) about respect for individual rights and purely voluntary relationships.

    But did criticize libertarians for treating that non-aggression principle as the ONLY absolute moral principle, with everything else being just subjective taste. Huge difference, that.

  53. JT

    Sorry, last paragraph should say:

    But she did criticize libertarians for treating the non-aggression principle as the ONLY absolute moral principle, with everything else being just subjective taste. Huge difference, that.

  54. Michael H. Wilson

    In reply to Susan @ 50.

    Contracts are essential to the capitalistic system that Rand promoted yet in her own marriage she apparently didn’t see the value of keeping her side of the bargain. There is the point that this may have been okay with Frank O’Connor. I have no way of knowing.

    None of us are perfect for damn sure and to look at those who popularized this idea as being perfect is foolish. Both in their writing and daily lives they made mistakes.

    I think it would be wise for us to look at their work and improve it where needed. As I have noted above Tom quotes Rothbard; ” Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence.” So Murray wanted to define a threat as aggression. We can get into some pretty slippery slopes from there. What’s a threat? “Is that a promise, or a threat?” is an old schoolyard taunt. How do we define “threat”?

    Sports analogies are popular with writers so here’s mine for ya’

    Lots of Libertarian are practicing their end zone dance, but have yet to master the basics of catching a pass.

  55. Susan Hogarth

    Contracts are essential to the capitalistic system that Rand promoted yet in her own marriage she apparently didn’t see the value of keeping her side of the bargain.

    I still don’t see how this is relevant.

  56. JT

    Michael: “Contracts are essential to the capitalistic system that Rand promoted yet in her own marriage she apparently didn’t see the value of keeping her side of the bargain. There is the point that this may have been okay with Frank O’Connor. I have no way of knowing.”

    If you have no way of knowing that, then why would you bring it up as evidence of anti-capitalism? And a poor example, at that.

  57. paulie Post author

    As for whether it’s “hard” for an LP candidate “to avoid explicitly supporting the non-defensive use of force,” I’d say, Yes, it would be hard.

    What’s so hard about it?

  58. Michael H. Wilson

    The people who some place on a pedestal and whose ideas some wish to chisel into concrete had trouble living up to their own standards.

    “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    I fall pretty much on the anarchist side of things and I don’t have any desire to put up with those who wish to wage war for peace, as some in the LP do, but at the same time I think we need to so a bit more flexibility on any number of issues.

    Personally I don’t think there is much to be gained from hashing over the issues that Brian brings up. It can be humorous at times and he’s fun to play along with as along as one realizes it is just a game and isn’t gaining the movement anything. Sharpen the skills I suppose.

  59. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 65 JT writes; “If you have no way of knowing that, then why would you bring it up as evidence of anti-capitalism? And a poor example, at that.”

    I did not say that at all.

  60. Michael Seebeck

    Mike @63:

    I think Gene T. addressed that back @46. “Cheating” requires a lack of knowledge and consent before the fact.

    Frankly, IMO a threat is not actual aggression, just free speech perceived as aggression. Actual aggression requires an action that violates the rights of another. Mere words don’t do that. Saying “I’m gonna punch you in the face” is mere words. The aggression occurs when the punch is actually thrown. If the punch is not thrown, then what has happened? A lot of bluster and no action.

    And yes, I think the whole concept of “fighting words” and “inciting violence” is a bunch of baloney. People can and should simply be responsible for their own actions and reactions, which starts with thinking before acting.

    But that’s been discussed before, and there’s no need to rehash that again. (Hint: don’t bother, anyone, it’s my opinion, love it or not, and it ain’t gonna change, because I believe it to be correct!)

  61. Michael Seebeck

    For clarity: “lack of knowledge and consent before the fact” means “lack of knowledge and LACK OF consent before the fact.” I didn’t carry through on the conjunction properly.

  62. paulie Post author

    one can be a lessarchist and not an anarcho “radical” and still be optimistic, using some or all of the rationales that Squire Rockwell cites. I am.

    Absolutely.

    The point I was trying to address was Brian’s mention that we are less free (at least in some ways) than 40 years ago.

    My reply is that we do not know how much more or less free we would have been now had the LP chosen a different strategy over that period of time.

  63. paulie Post author

    (I believe it’s Tom Knapp who’s used the analogy of breaking your legs before offering you crutches)

    Harry Browne, unless he got it from Tom.

  64. tab

    Frankly, IMO a threat is not actual aggression, just free speech perceived as aggression. Actual aggression requires an action that violates the rights of another. Mere words don’t do that. Saying “I’m gonna punch you in the face” is mere words. The aggression occurs when the punch is actually thrown. If the punch is not thrown, then what has happened? A lot of bluster and no action.

    Depends on the threat. If someone says I’m going to kill you, and I believe they will kill me, then I am well within my rights to kill them first. That is a preemptive action before any action against myself could be taken.

    A punch may be somewhat different because the threat isn’t as great. But again, if someone is saying I’m going to punch you in the face, you have ever right to perceive that as a threat and protect yourself.

    The person who takes defensive action is the victim not the criminal in that scenario. If you aren’t going to punch someone then you shouldn’t issue the threat.

  65. JT

    MDH: “JT writes; “If you have no way of knowing that, then why would you bring it up as evidence of anti-capitalism? And a poor example, at that.”

    I did not say that at all.”

    You didn’t say that?? You said, “Contracts are essential to the capitalistic system that Rand promoted yet in her own marriage she apparently didn’t see the value of keeping her side of the bargain.”

    Your comment doesn’t logically mean that Rand didn’t value an essential part of capitalism (e.g., contracts)? Obviously, it does mean that. Why you would want to use that as an example, I have no clue. Guess you had no better ones.

  66. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 74 JT I did not say a word about anti-capitalism. I was pointing out that Rand had her faults. I thought that was clear. Obviously not.

  67. Thomas L. Knapp

    I’m certainly not the creator of the “breaks your leg then gives you crutches” analogy. I’m sure I’ve heard Harry Browne use it, but I don’t know if he originated it either.

  68. Michael H. Wilson

    Elsewhere I have pointed out the Rothbard said the problem between the groups was over the war question. To this day that still seems to be the problem. But it is worth noting that Brian writes; ” Radicals want the LP to officially disagree with all principled libertarians whose principles aren’t identical to theirs.”

    Since the LP claims to be the “party of principle” it might be nice to know which principles those are. And since it appears that according to Brian that the different groups have different principles it might be nice to list those as well. Anyone wish to start a list?

  69. David F. Nolan

    I stumbled on this lengthy discussion while visiting the IPR site for other purposes, and since my name has appeared in several of the postings, I thought I’d chime in with a few observations.

    First, I am not an anarchist. Never have been, probably never will be. I regard the idea of a completely stateless society as a noble ideal, but one that humanity is not yet ready to embrace and operate within. I consider myself a “radical minarchist,” whose views were influenced greatly by Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein and H.L. Mencken, among others. I have had (and still have) many anarchist friends, including Murray Rothbard, who once called me his “favorite minarchist.” But I’m not an anarchist.

    The pledge was written by me, and me alone, in the very earliest days of the LP – even before the first national convention in Denver, as I recall. The language about “political and social goals” is there because a political organization cannot reasonably specify the conduct of its members outside the political realm. Its primary purpose, as I have stated many times, was to make it clear to prospective members and government agents alike that this new party did not want advocates of violent overthrow of the government as members. As Tom Knapp has suggested, the particular phrasing I used was chosen to appeal to Randians and Rothbardians alike, but it was not intended as a backdoor attempt to equate libertarianism with anarchism. As I stated above, I’m not an anarchist!

    The “Dallas Accord” is/was an informal agreement reached at the 1974 LP national convention. It was not a signed formal statement (a la the Port Huron statement issued by the SDS around 1969 or 1970). The idea was to move past the anarchist-minarchist debate that consumed a lot of time and mental energy in those long-ago days. And it held up for a long time, but now apparently that debate has resurfaced. I regard that as unfortunate, but I don’t control anyone else in this movement.

    For reasons of clarity and simplicity, I have long supported the removal of the “cult of the omnipotent state” language from the Statement of Principles. I like the sentiment, but agree with those who believe it is distracting and confusing to prospective LP members.

    That’s it for now. I’m tired and I am going to bed. Please excuse any typos or odd phrasings in this posting. I am a lousy typist, and often hit two keys at once.

  70. Michael Seebeck

    tab @73:

    Depends on the threat. If someone says I’m going to kill you, and I believe they will kill me, then I am well within my rights to kill them first. That is a preemptive action before any action against myself could be taken.

    FAIL. You just advocated, “He hit me back first!” If you let your emotional fear dictate your actions, then you’re not rationally thinking it out, are you?

    You can’t claim self-defense based on the perception of an action that hasn’t happened yet. IIRC we invaded Iraq based on that premise.

    Pre-emptive killing is simply murder.

  71. Robert Capozzi

    The St. Louis Accord
    Draft

    We, the members of the Libertarian Party in convention, agree that the mission of the Libertarian Party and its members is to give voice to a diverse movement of people who wish to maximize liberty and minimize coercion. We also recognize that we are pluralistic regarding strategies and perspectives among Libertarians, but we are united in the idea that government action, even when well-intended, should be replaced by non-coercive, voluntary institutions when practicable.

    To advance our vision of a free, prosperous, peaceful social order, we Libertarians have organized as a political party to win elections, advance the ideas of liberty, and organize lovers of liberty into an effective political party for freedom and peace.

    While we Libertarians celebrate the diversity within our ranks, our ideas are distinctly different from Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, socialists, and statists of all shades. Yet, we encourage all to consider the principles and policies espoused by we Libertarians, and to join with us when your political philosophy becomes aligned with the self-evident truth that all people are created equal with certain unalienable Rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This American ideal is at the core of the Libertarian Party.

    Our mission is imperative; our means require tolerance; our methods are peaceful.

  72. John Famularo

    Robert Capozzi wrote,
    “organize lovers of liberty into an effective political party for freedom and peace. ”

    As a mission statement it is too vague and subjective to form the basis of a strategic plan.

    It might appeal to the current group of LP “sustaining members” but it would do little to bring back the 300,000 former members, and even less appeal to the vast majority of voters who are non-ideological.

    What does “effective” mean in objective measurable terms?

  73. Thomas L. Knapp

    “FAIL. You just advocated, ‘He hit me back first!'”

    He just advocated no such thing. An “offer to do harm” is the very definition of assault (following through on that offer is battery).

    If someone pulls a gun, points it at you, and says “I am going to blow your head off,” they HAVE initiated force, regardless of whether or not they have yet pulled the trigger.

  74. Robert Capozzi

    jf, this draft St. Louis Accord isn’t intended to be the basis for a strategic plan.

    The point of this draft accord is to allow for peaceful co-existence among the different schools of Ls. I don’t suggest it’s perfect…it’s a draft. Please suggest edits if you think this effort is valuable as I do.

    I’ve offered this as a way for us all to get along. It strikes me that that’s the first, most important step. As it stands now, different schools of Ls are prone to exclude from the L tent those who are not aligned with their school…a dysfunctional situation, IMO.

    “Effective” is a subjective term; empirical metrics could be something a strategic plan could address.

  75. John Famularo

    Robert Capozzi wrote,
    ” different schools of Ls are prone to exclude from the L tent those who are not aligned with their school”.

    That is better than a “big tent party” that can’t affect public policy.
    Too much effort is being spent on the word “libertarian”. The name of the party doesn’t matter.

    I would let the anarchists have the LP and form another “American Liberty” party of minarchists.

    I do not favor the “reformers” or their underhanded way of attempting to purge the anarchists.

    I do not favor the anarchists because I believe anarchy is a pipe dream and would never be accepted by 99,9 % of the voters.

    I favor a party that is “effective” in reducing the size, scope and coerciveness of government while securing individual rights, settling disputes and maintaining the ability of the people to quietly enjoy their life, liberty and property. That is the mission statement I propose.

  76. Gary Chartier

    RC@84: how would you feel about this version?

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in the political process. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to avoiding aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to social arrangements rooted in the use of coercive force. At the core of the Party’s vision is the historic American conviction that all people are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  77. Robert Capozzi

    gc, yours improves. It’s crisper. More tweaks:

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in the electoral and political processes. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to avoiding aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to social arrangements [delete: rooted in] that employ the use of coercive force. At the core of the Party’s vision is the historic American conviction that all people are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  78. Robert Capozzi

    jf, as a theoretical asymptotic anarchist/applied lessarchist, I’m not sure which prospective party would be suit me.

    Regardless, we Ls are too small in numbers to be schisming. The one experiment in a spin off has not worked out, in my estimation, and is not likely to work.

    I happen to think we’re more likely to be effective by hanging together, not separately. But that will take some work, which this St. Louis Accord is designed to heal. My take is that much of the challenge revolves around the vagueness and differing interpretations of our founding documents. By creating an updated Accord — in Resolution form — I believe that most of the schools can co-exist in one reasonably functional party, one that could effectively challenge the status quo and the duopoly.

  79. paulie Post author

    Robert and Gary,

    Any of those would work for me, at least on first read.

    John,

    What mission statement would you suggest?

  80. paulie Post author

    Regardless, we Ls are too small in numbers to be schisming. The one experiment in a spin off has not worked out, in my estimation, and is not likely to work.

    I agree.

  81. Gary Chartier

    RC@90, Paulie@92: no doubt we’re largely doing this for our own edification, but I could sure use a little edifying. So, following on from Robert’s suggestion:

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in the electoral and political processes. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to avoiding aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to the use of coercive force. At the core of the Party’s vision is the historic American conviction that all people are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    I don’t have a conceptual problem with “political and electoral,” but the phrase seems redundant, since all electoral processes are political–and fewer words are better. Thoughts?

  82. Robert Capozzi

    gc, yes, electoral processes are political, but not all political processes are electoral.

    Those who actually run for office, or believe that the LP should run for office to win (or place or show) would need such explicit language, seems to me. That’s why I added “electoral and”.

  83. Gary Chartier

    OK, for edification or in seach of a St. Louis accord, how about this, then:

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in electoral and other political processes. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to avoiding aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to the use of coercive force. At the core of the Party’s vision is the historic American conviction that all people are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  84. Gary Chartier

    But, say, “foreswearing” seems a little grandiose. Also, would stronger language (“to avoiding all forms of aggression and to pursuing . . . ,” “to non-aggression and to the pursuit of . . .”) tend to foreclose the conversation among anarchists, minarchists, and lessarchists you want to foster?

  85. John Famularo

    Gary Chartier wrote,

    “The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion “.

    That is all you have to say.

    All the rest of the words are a dance to appease the anarchists and those who think the party should be a philosophical debating society or a social club.

  86. tab

    FAIL. You just advocated, “He hit me back first!” If you let your emotional fear dictate your actions, then you’re not rationally thinking it out, are you?

    You can’t claim self-defense based on the perception of an action that hasn’t happened yet. IIRC we invaded Iraq based on that premise.

    Pre-emptive killing is simply murder.

    No, preemptive killing is not murder. I would say the person making the threat is somewhat irrational. By saying “I’m going to kill you” they have initiated force against me.

    If you prefer to wait until such a threat is followed through on that is your preference. I do not.

    Threats between states are far more complex than threats between single individuals. So any examples of such threats would not really hold up in this discussion as they are different with every case. Depends on the state actor making the threat.

  87. Michael Seebeck

    So you would counter what you perceive to be an irrational act with one of your own in murder? How does that make any sense, tab?

    Sorry, but do you realize how poorly you sound?

    By that extension, look at someone strangely is grounds for putting a bullet between their eyes. Why? Because you perceived them as a threat.

    That is most ridiculous by any measure of common sense.

  88. Michael Seebeck

    Sorry, Tom, initiation of force has to do with actual action, not simply exercising free speech. “Assault” in the idea of an offer to do violence is a cruel legal joke designed to limit free speech and was put into the law by people who can’t tell the difference between an action (“Battery”) and a statement about an action (speech), so they pissed their pants over it, panicked, yelled “There ought to be a law” and then put one in absent common sense. Yes, the legal definition is most definitely flawed, and accepting the flawed definition is just as flawed.

    It’s one of the fundamental flaws of the legal system that has paved the way to censor free speech, all because some mental wimps got their knickers soiled and in a wad.

    The other legal definition of assault is synonymous with battery, and is therefore redundant.

    I prefer the chemistry definition, thank you, meaning the combination of an acid and a base.

  89. Michael Seebeck

    The only time words are an actual assault is when some physically smacks you with something printed.

  90. Thomas Knapp

    Bob,

    Feel free to use “eschewing” or not. Since I’m not and don’t intend to be party to the instrument as anything like written, I’m just trying to be helpful on a writerly basis.

  91. tab

    So you would counter what you perceive to be an irrational act with one of your own in murder? How does that make any sense, tab?

    How does it make any sense that you should be able to go around saying “I’m going to kill you” and expect people not to do anything in return. That seems completely illogical to me.

    So your argument is that if someone says I’m going to shoot you I can’t do anything. I must literally wait until they pull out the gun and point it at my face before I can take any action. Or do I have to wait until they fire a bullet since just pulling out the gun isn’t doing anything to my body?

  92. Michael H. Wilson

    tab imagine two six year old boys playing cops and robbers. You might find the phrase ” I’m gonna kill you ” fairly common in that setting.

  93. Gary Chartier

    RC@108: How about this?

    I. The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in electoral and other political processes. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to rejecting aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to the use of coercive force. At the core of the Party’s vision is the historic American conviction that all people are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Not sure what would bring Tom along, but perhaps, in any case, there’s room for v.II:

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in electoral and other political processes. The Party’s diverse members share a commitment to rejecting aggression and to pursuing peaceful alternatives to the use of coercive force.

    And v.III

    The mission of the Libertarian Party is to maximize liberty and minimize coercion through advocacy, education, and participation in electoral and other political processes.

  94. Robert Capozzi

    gc, “rejecting” is certainly stronger than “eschewing.” As a TAAAList, I got no probs with rejecting, as it suggests a PROCESS of rejection, not a complete rejection.

    tk, thanks for the smithing. Is it the language that troubles you, or the entire idea of a St. Louis Accord.

    I’d really like this Resolution to happen. My view is if folks like you, Hogarth, Holtz, Seebeck and Phillies could sponsor such an Accord, it would go a long way toward changing the atmosphere in the LP. Seems Chartier, Canolli and I seem to see the utility of such a document.

    What’s it gonna take, Knappster?

  95. Gary Chartier

    RC@114: nice phrase. Query: in a society like ours, private aggression is almost always backed up in some way by the state, an organized perpetrator of aggression if there ever was one. But does focusing on “government aggression” imply lack of concern about other sorts of aggression?

  96. Thomas Knapp

    Bob,

    I’m not sure what it will take. I’m not against the idea, but neither do I fit into the class of people whom it claims to represent (people who live in an alternate universe where the calculation problem does not exist).

  97. Michael Seebeck

    tab,

    That’s exactly the case, because talk is talk, and BS walks. For all you know that guy saying “I’m gonna kill you” is merely talking into his bluetooth while online gaming through his smart phone..

    Pointing a gun at someone is no more an act of force than pointing a banana at somebody, because there has been no actual harm, and the gun can be put away, or the banana eaten. Pulling the trigger and actually shooting at someone IS an act of force because the act of aggression has been done. I can pull out a gun and wave it around while gesticulating wildly, but I haven’t harmed anyone. Like Billy Ray Valentine playing hot potato with the Ming vase in Trading Places, no harm was done. Then he dropped it. Harm done (at least to the vase in this case).

    The point is that there must be a differentiation between actions that *could* cause harm (or not) and actions that *do* cause harm. You think the mere utterance of words is the latter, when in fact it is the former, and that’s where your logic fails.

  98. Michael Seebeck

    Carpozzi, I haven’t been paying much attention to that St. Louis accord idea. I’ll need to revisit it before I can make a comment about sponsorship.

    So, I’ll get back on that in a while.

  99. Thomas Knapp

    Brian,

    It’s not that I conflate two kinds of calculation. Yes, I admit that there’s a degree to which calculation is possible and even possibly useful.

    On the other hand, I’m unwilling to enter into an “accord” based solely on the idea of calculation per se.

    To put it a different way, I’m interested in defending actual liberty and fighting actual coercion, not in coming up with schemes to respectively “maximize” and “minimize” theoretical levels of each.

    One of the reasons for that preference is that I can be reasonably sure that once such a notion is accepted, some knothead will shortly come down the pike with an idea for “minimizing” theoretical coercion by engaging in actual coercion.

  100. robert capozzi

    gc, no, in context, qualifying with government only limits the discussion to the political, plus the peaceful alternatives clause could be read more broadly. I seriously doubt the reader would takeaway the idea that Ls are OK with private coercion.

  101. robert capozzi

    bh, melikes. Consider revising the term “edge cases”…specific circumstances or something?

  102. tab

    That’s exactly the case, because talk is talk, and BS walks. For all you know that guy saying “I’m gonna kill you” is merely talking into his bluetooth while online gaming through his smart phone..

    That’s a pretty bad example. I’ll know if someone is saying “I”m going to kill you” to my face. Which is what we were talking about.

    When you take action to defend yourself you must be able to prove you felt an immediate threat. If not then you are the criminal.

    Pointing a gun at someone is no more an act of force than pointing a banana at somebody, because there has been no actual harm, and the gun can be put away, or the banana eaten. Pulling the trigger and actually shooting at someone IS an act of force because the act of aggression has been done. I can pull out a gun and wave it around while gesticulating wildly, but I haven’t harmed anyone. Like Billy Ray Valentine playing hot potato with the Ming vase in Trading Places, no harm was done. Then he dropped it. Harm done (at least to the vase in this case).

    That is a really bad example. When a banana can kill me then I will accept the two scenarios as equal.

    Your whole argument is basically saying you must be a victim before you can retaliate. That is one of the strangest arguments I’ve ever seen put forth.

    If somebody points a gun at your face I would hope you have the courage to take action. If you point a gun at my face you will get shot. If you don’t want to get shot don’t point a gun at someone. It’s an easy concept.

    The point is that there must be a differentiation between actions that *could* cause harm (or not) and actions that *do* cause harm. You think the mere utterance of words is the latter, when in fact it is the former, and that’s where your logic fails.

    I do not know someones intentions if they point a gun at my face. Neither does anyone else so if you point a gun at someone you must assume they intend to use it. No rational person is going to point a gun at someone if they aren’t intending to threaten someones life.

    No, I don’t think the mere utterance of just any word is justification. I think threats of physical violence against myself or my family is justification to take defensive action.

    Like I said, if you don’t want to face the consequences I would suggest you don’t physically threaten to harm someone. That is an extremely simply concept to understand.

  103. Robert Capozzi

    tk: …some knothead will shortly come down the pike with an idea for “minimizing” theoretical coercion by engaging in actual coercion.

    me: tyranticide?

  104. Brian Holtz

    No, tyrannicide is self-defense. Tom is talking about knotheads like me who support e.g. pollution taxes. Tom seems to think that smog is “theoretical”. For more on this topic, see http://libertarianmajority.net/can-torts-police-all-negative-externalities

    P.S. We shouldn’t use “coercion” (or “force”) as synonyms for “force initiation” (or as Ruwart says, “first-strike force”). We know we’re not pacificists, but casual readers might be confused.

    P.P.S. The question of whether a threat can ever count as force initiation is too obvious to be worth debating.

  105. Susan Hogarth

    No, tyrannicide is self-defense. Tom is talking about knotheads like me who support e.g. pollution taxes.

    Possibly. If it was me talking about knotheads like you, I’d choose a more obvious and dramatic example. You know, like the contention of some folks that bombing thousands of people saved millions of other people.

  106. Steven R Linnabary

    Pointing a gun at someone is no more an act of force than pointing a banana at somebody,

    Huh???

    Pointing a gun at somebody certainly IS “initiation of force”! Most folks will hand over the money or allow thugs into their homes when a gun is pointed at them.

    Otherwise a Nazi could logically claim that Jews went voluntarily to their ends, because they were not shot!!

    Bad example.

    PEACE

  107. libertariangirl

    but pointing a banana at s/o says , “im crazy”…

    rofl of course im just kidding .

    pointing a banana and pointing a gun ARE two totally different things

  108. Michael Seebeck

    Nope, Steve, the reaction is one of fear, not one of rationality. People react to fear by either fight or flight. Most of the Jews reacted by flight., Those in the Warsaw Ghetto reacted by fight. Most Americans anymore react with fear, especially when it comes to aggression instituted by the state. We’ve lost our collective nerve to stand up to fear and aggression, and that’s why America is so screwed.

    tab’s argument, no matter how he spins it, is that his *perception* of being a potential victim, whether true or not, before the fact of being an *actual* victim, is grounds to shoot first, to commit aggression. I reject that argument because it is based on a mental illness of victimhood, plus it can be used as grounds to claim aggression as self-defense, which is completely contradictory in terms, as every libertarian knows.

    On top of that, tab claims that “a rational man would not go around waving a gun in people’s faces.” I never said anything at all about rationality with the action, just the action itself, so he misses the point entirely, which is that people need to use their brains and assess what’s actually going on before reacting.

    And Brian is right in his PPS–it is so obvious that it doesn’t need debating, as I explained it rather clearly above @106.

  109. Gene Berkman

    If someone points a gun at you, it is coercion. Under Common Law principles, you have a right to end the threat by disarming or disabling the person pointing the gun.

    If you kill the person, and it was obvious that you could have disabled or disarmed the person without fatal force, that is a crime, and if you shoot someone after you have disarmed or disabled them, that too is a crime. But using measured response in defense, even before the person has shot you, is defense in the Common Law. and in most places has been placed into statutory law.

  110. robert capozzi

    As co-chair of the R King Caucus, I’d never refer to a fellow L as a “knothead.” However, I’m confident that if a public opinion poll were to ask, which view is advocated by a “knothead”:
    a) a pollution tax shift
    b) unilateral nuclear disarmament

    b would win handily, perhaps overwhelmingly.

  111. Mik Robertson

    @135 Is it a crime if, after you disarm someone who pointed a gun at you , you slap them silly for being such a knothead?

  112. libertariangirl

    so during disarming ok

    but after disarming not

    that still dont seem fair:)

  113. Michael H. Wilson

    From the start to the end, the lack of clarity has been an issue throughout this entire thread.

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